Kansas City Chiefs @ San Diego Chargers - Rewind
1. The defense did their job and forced three San Diego turnovers. When the Chiefs get the opposing team to turn the ball over they usually win. Linebacker Gary Stills jumped on a fumble by Doug Flutie that set up the Chiefs final touchdown. Then late in the game, Greg Wesley tipped and intercepted an ill-advised pass into the end zone that Wesley corralled sealing the win. Say what you want about the run defense and the zone defense but when it counts the Chiefs defense steps up. Enough said.
2. The only negative of the game were the dropped passes by Eddie Kennison and Johnnie Morton. After their two drops on third down, the Chargers were able to score ten points on both missed opportunities. This has been a problem for the Chiefs wide receivers and if it continues look for Marc Boerigter to get more opportunities. He has the surest hands on the team and he could be the difference maker for the Chiefs the rest of the way.
3. Trent Green showed he was human against the Chargers. He threw two interceptions both to Quentin Jammer, including one in the end zone that killed the Chiefs perfect scoring streak in the red zone this year. But Green made up for his two errant throws by finding Tony Gonzalez twice in the game.
4. What else can you say about Priest Holmes. It appears that he is finally 100% recovered from his hip injury. Holmes cutback, showed speed and had a nose for the end zone. His two touchdown performance gave him 17 touchdowns on the season. His goal is to surpass the mark of 26 touchdowns set by future hall of fame back Emmitt Smith. Holmes ran the ball 31 times for 162 yards. This was a game that Holmes needed and so did the Chiefs as they prepare for the stretch run and the post season.
5. The offensive line had its best game of the season. They were equally good at pass protection and run blocking. The Chargers were only able to penetrate the Chiefs offensive backfield a handful of times. For the most part, the Chiefs had their way with the Chargers defensive line. I thought Willie Roaf was exceptional in the running game. He is not known for his run blocking skills but he punished Chargers linebackers and cornerbacks that tried to support the run downfield.
6. Jason Baker had his best punting effort in the last four weeks. Against the Raiders he averaged 31 yards per punt but this week his average climbed to 38 yards. Now that's not going to jump out at you but Baker at least moved forward and that should give Dick Vermeil hope that Baker can kick his way out of his slump. He should have some good punts this week against the Broncos in that mile high air.
7. Scott Fujita had ten more tackles but Shawn Barber was the hero at linebacker on Sunday. He was primarily responsible for shadowing Doug Flutie in the fourth quarter. Barber had a sack after containing Flutie as he tried to flee the pocket. Barber caused Flutie to stay in the pocket and that changed his ability to find open receivers.
8. Dante Hall did not have his best day. He seems to have fallen into some old habits. On three of four of his returns, he ran into the wall of his blockers and allowed the Chargers to dictate his direction. Hall is better when he moves from side to side. He tried to run up the gut and sometimes out ran his blockers. He needs to stop trying to hit the home run and take the twenty and thirty yards returns that are open to him every time he touches the ball.
9. Even though it was only one carry Larry Johnson was suited for this game. Dick Vermeil reiterated on Monday that he wants to try and get Johnson more playing time but it's not going to be easy.
10. The Chiefs coaching staff needs to do a better job with their coaches challenge. On Doug Flutie's touchdown pass to David Boston, he was clearly over the line of scrimmage. The Chiefs did not challenge the call. In the playoffs, that's not likely to be missed since the network playoff crews always use more cameras.
Kansas City Chiefs @ Denver Broncos – Preview
1. This is the money game. The Chiefs can secure a strong lock on their quest to secure home field advantage with a win against the Broncos on Sunday. If the Chiefs win they'll be 11-1 in the AFC Conference and that might be a hard number to match.
2. Jake Plummer had his worst game as a Bronco two weeks ago in the cold against the hapless Chicago Bears. Outside of one strong drive, he looked uncomfortable in the cold weather. On Sunday against the Raiders, Plummer was more at east but Clinton Portis saved the day rushing for 170 yards on 34 carries. His two touchdown runs were the difference in the game. For the day Plummer only threw for 105 yards and that won't cut it against the Chiefs.
3. If the Broncos have a weakness on defense its their tackling. The Raiders to their fault did not run the ball enough but still Tyrone Wheatley was able to get some big runs. Denver will put eight men in the box and try and stop Priest Holmes. Kansas City has to counter with play action passes. The Broncos corners are not strong against the pass and they can be exploited with play action passes.
4. Before the season started, Priest Holmes indicated this was the game that he was looking forward to playing. Last year Holmes was injured in this game and he has vowed to payback the Broncos with a solid performance. Big time players step up in big games and last year Denver had no answers for Holmes before his injury. I expect Holmes to have several big runs against the over-pursuing Denver defense.
5. The Chiefs defense will need to focus on tight end Shannon Sharpe. He's having his best season in years and has become Plummer's main target. Rod Smith, Ashley Lelie and Ed McCaffrey have been unproductive since Plummer returned from his shoulder and foot injury. Sharpe has been all world the past several weeks and if the Chiefs can take him out of the game, Plummer is likely to force balls to his wide receivers. That should result in numerous turnovers. Plummer has yet to win a big game for Denver and none is bigger for him and the team than this week.
6. Kansas City should be able to handle the hostile Invesco crowd. Since the Broncos moved from Mile High stadium the atmosphere has been more subdued than in the past. The stadium does not have the same feel or aura and that once made Denver one of the most feared stadiums in the NFL.
7. Linebacker Al Wilson shot his mouth off after the Raiders victory. He claims that he fears no other NFL team. He might want to be reminded that his team is 7-5 and sitting on the outside looking in for a post season birth. With no chance to win the AFC West and only one slot open at making a wild card birth, Wilson better back up his statements with a solid game. His comments are sure to rile up the Chiefs.
8. I would expect Dante Hall to be used more in the passing game this Sunday. After his two touchdown performance last season in Denver, he should be used to stretch the Broncos secondary down the field. Look for the Chiefs to throw a few wide receiver screens and at least one reverse that will feature Hall.
9.Denver has been very good this season at sustaining long drives. Numerous time they've managed to hold onto the ball for more than eight minutes. That should be their game plan against the Chiefs. They know that as long as the Kansas City offense stays on the sidelines it increases their probability for winning.
10. Troubled defense end Darryl Gardener will not play in this game. Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan suspended him for the Raiders game and the this weeks game against the Chiefs. Gardener has had a troubled past but he ripped Shanahan in the local media and Shanahan had little choice but to suspend him.
Around the AFC West
1. This week I have to start with the Oakland Raiders. Beleaguered Raiders head coach Bill Callahan called his team dumb after their embarrassing home loss to Denver on Sunday. The much-maligned head coach has sealed his fate and will not be back next season. After a stellar game against the Chiefs the week before, Callahan's Raiders laid an egg against the Broncos. They stopped running the ball because they were so far behind but they did not take advantage of opportunities to get more points earlier in the game.
2. Raiders cornerback Charles Woodson who has battled with Callahan could not believe he would make those comments. After the game, he quipped that he was in awe that a grown man would call another man dumb. If you're a Chiefs fan, you have to love all of this.
3. Tyrone Wheatley is likely to become a free agent next season and the way he's run the ball the last several weeks, don't be surprised if he winds up in Dallas as the Cowboys featured back next season. He still has a couple of seasons left in the tank. The Raiders are not utilizing him enough and that's cost them some wins this season.
4.Another problem for the Raiders on Sunday was the play of Rick Mirer who was 13 of 30 for only 153 yards. He showed little ability to get the ball down the field and he is not the answer for the Raiders. There is a reason he's a third string NFL quarterback.
5. Mike Shanahan has been under siege in Denver. After the loss to the Bears, he was being crucified for his decision to sign Jake Plummer and many were calling for his scalp. They might get their wish. A rumor out of Lincoln Nebraska has Shanahan as one of the leading candidates to take over for the recently fired Frank Solich.
6.Jake Plummer seems to be recovered from his injuries but still appears to have happy feet in the pocket. He missed several wide open receivers on Sunday despite the fact Oakland put very little pressure on him. Plummer has a lot to prove in Denver.
7.For the first time this season, Broncos wide receiver Ed McCaffrey was able to practice the entire week without pain. He caught four passes for 39 yards against the Raiders. He looked more comfortable running his routes than at any other time this season.
8.Marty Schottenheimer broke his headset into a million pieces on the sidelines on Sunday after Flutie fumbled a snap in the fourth quarter. It was clear against the Chiefs that his players quit on him especially in the first half. Rumors persist that the Spanos family might make a coaching change and bring in someone younger to try and turn the franchise back into a contender.
9.The Chargers need to get quarterback Drew Brees back in the lineup. He's learning nothing from watching Doug Flutie. Even though Flutie gives the Chargers a better chance to win every Sunday, Brees needs playing time if he's going to develop into a big time player.
10. Cornerback Quentin Jammer had his best game as professional against the Chiefs. He picked off Trent Green twice and he has the talent to be one of the better players on the Chargers defense. Give him another season or two and he could be a pro bowl type corner.